If the numbers on your scale are creeping upward, there's no better time than the New Year to resolve to lose a few of those excess pounds. Many people want to lose weight for appearance, but there are many health benefits to keeping weight in the healthy range. Cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and joint problems are but a few of the many diseases and health problems linked to overweight.

Most health professionals refer to the body mass index (BMI) scales to determine weight status. But you probably don't need a number to tell you if you're overweight. A quick look in the mirror is all most people need to get their answer. The good news is, if you want to shed some pounds, there are many diet books to help. The bad news is, most diets fail, and most people end up gaining back more weight than they lost. Recent market surveys show that bread consumption is down, presumably because Americans are shunning carbohydrates in response to the high protein diet fads. Much more telling however, is the fact that donut sales are up.

If diets fail, does this mean we should just give up and reach for a jelly donut? No. It is possible to lose weight and keep it off, and there's a Registry to prove it. The National Control Registry ( tracks people who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for over a year. Studies on this group of successful dieters show they have a few things in common: they eat breakfast, eat lots of fruits and vegetables, and they exercise at least 30 minutes everyday.
Contrary to media hype and anecdotal reports, none of the popular diets -low carbohydrate/high protein; food combining; low fat-have proven to be better than the simple USDA Food Guide Pyramid at helping people lose weight and keep it off. The truth is, any diet can work in the short term. What you need, however, is an eating plan that will keep you healthy and happy for the rest of your life. The secret to weight loss is to eat less food and move more. Try the latest fad if it gives you a jumpstart, but the truth is, you don't need a book.

Eat five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables; several servings of whole grains; two to three servings of lean protein; nuts; and a healthy fat such as olive oil every day. Cut out the soda and limit processed foods. Enjoy desserts and sweets in moderation. Walk at least a half hour a day.

It won't make the bestseller list, but it's all you need to know.